Back to contents
Why Gamification Doesn’t Always Click with Frontline Teams
Erika Wasser
Co-Founder & CEO
Mar. 5th, 2024
3 min read

Gamification has stormed into the workplace with all the fanfare of a new blockbuster tech tool, promising to transform everything from sales to customer service. It’s particularly popular in tech-heavy environments, where competition can be as straightforward as who codes the fastest. But when you shift the lens to frontline roles in industries like healthcare, hospitality, or retail, does gamification still hold its charm? Let’s unpack this.

Understanding the Frontline Landscape

Frontline workers are often the unsung heroes of daily operations—they’re the ones greeting customers, handling emergencies, and ensuring operations run smoothly. These roles are not just about routine; they involve a high degree of empathy, rapid problem-solving, and, often, a touch of grace under pressure.

For instance, consider nurses working in a busy hospital ward. Their work isn’t just about administering medication on time (which, by the way, is hardly a trivial task), but also about providing care with compassion, anticipating patient needs, and managing complex emotional dynamics. Imagine introducing a points system for each task they complete. It could be perceived as reducing their critical, nuanced work to mere checkboxes, potentially trivializing the profound human element of their jobs.

When Gamification Might Feel Patronizing

Let’s say a retail chain introduces a game where sales associates earn badges for customer interactions. While this might initially seem like a fun motivator, it could start to grate on professionals who pride themselves on genuine customer service. They might feel that the authentic connection they strive to create with each customer is being overshadowed by a pursuit of points and leaderboards, turning meaningful interactions into transactions.

The Flip Side: A Dash of Fun?

However, it's not all doom and gloom for gamification. In some contexts, when applied thoughtfully, gamification can indeed inject a bit of fun into monotonous tasks without belittling the professionalism of the role. For example, a quick-service restaurant might use gamification to speed up order processing—something that's already highly standardized and could use an element of competition to break the monotony.

The Need for Balance: Establishing Expertise First

A sensible approach might be to establish a baseline of high performance and deep expertise before introducing any game elements. Once a team is confident in their skills and the initial training is well ingrained, introducing gamification as a way to enhance specific, less critical tasks could be more acceptable and even welcomed. This ensures that the core responsibilities are taken seriously and that any gamification serves merely as a complement.

Real-World Examples Where Gamification Misses the Mark

Consider a luxury hotel where the concierge staff is gamified on guest interactions. If team members focus too much on scoring points rather than genuinely engaging with guests and understanding their needs, the quality of service could suffer, affecting the hotel’s reputation for personalized care.

On the other hand, gamification has been successfully implemented in places like call centers, where tasks like number of calls taken can be gamified without undermining the professional aspects of the job. Here, gamification can help keep the energy up and provide a metric for performance in a naturally competitive environment.

Wrapping it up

While gamification has its perks, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, especially in settings where professionalism and nuanced human interaction are at the forefront. It’s crucial for employers to weigh the nature of the work and the intrinsic motivations of their employees before jumping on the gamification bandwagon. For frontline teams, where the human element is irreplaceable, recognition and respect for their professional capabilities should come first. Injecting fun into the workplace through gamification should be done with care, ensuring it adds value without diminishing the dignity of the work being done.

Thinking about trying Prospr?

It takes less than 15 minutes to show you why the best businesses choose us.